By Jan Wolfe
(Reuters) – The U.S. antitrust case against Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Google will spotlight two lawyers better known for behind-the-scenes counseling: Justice Department attorney Ryan Shores, who is putting together the case, and Google executive Kent Walker, who is calling the shots on the search engine company’s defense.
Both parties could still add legal firepower to litigate the case, especially if it goes to trial. The lawsuit could be filed as early as next week.
Here are some details on Shores and Walker.
Shores joined the Justice Department last year to spearhead the Google investigation. He is working closely with Jeffrey Rosen, the second-in-command at the department behind Attorney General Bill Barr.
Shores has spent his career at elite law firms, most recently Shearman & Sterling, where he defended corporations like Bank of America <BAC.N> and the oil company Equinor against antitrust claims.
After law school he clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, an influential conservative who died in 2005.
Shores’ background as primarily a corporate defense lawyer makes him an odd pick to lead an antitrust case against Google, said David Balto, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer.
David Boies, the famed litigator who tried the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O>, had significant plaintiff-side experience before taking that case, Balto noted.
“Switching sides is going to be a difficult task,” Balto said. “He does not have the background that would naturally lend itself to this case.”
David Higbee, a friend and former law partner of Shores, said Shores was a skilled lawyer and up for the task.
“I don’t think he took the case with any agenda,” Higbee added. “I don’t think of him as a partisan.”
Walker joined Google as an in-house lawyer in 2006 and has steadily expanded his portfolio while keeping a relatively low public profile.
Walker took control of Google’s legal affairs as part of the 2015 reorganization that created a new parent company, Alphabet.
In 2018, Google promoted Walker from general counsel to senior vice president for global affairs, overseeing legal affairs, public policy and corporate philanthropy.
Walker has some courtroom experience, thanks to a five-year stint as a federal prosecutor early in his career in which he won the first federal criminal copyright infringement case.
He worked at companies including Netscape Communications Corp and eBay Inc <EBAY.O> before joining Google.
Silicon Valley attorneys see Walker as an important voice on big-picture ethical issues facing the technology industry, said Doug Melamed, a former in-house lawyer at Intel Corp <INTC.O>.
“He’s as good as they come,” said Melamed, now a professor at Stanford Law School.
Walker will likely lead a team of outside lawyers and direct Google’s legal strategy and any potential settlement.
Walker did not lead Google’s antitrust settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2013 but oversaw a later settlement with European Union regulators.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Richard Chang)